Jul 092005

It is very strange how generic all the non-clothing stores are. 
There is a Tabaccaia, which sells stamps, bus passes, lotto tickets,
envelopes, phone cards, gum, etc etc. about every 200 yards.  They
are all, for the most part, exactly the same.  Some sell jewelry
and other nick knacks, but beyond that there is no difference. 
The stores don’t even have names.  A simple large black T
indicates what they are.  All farmacie are marked by a glowing
green +, also with no names.  The products in these shops are
somewhat more varied. Chopin, a popular Italian clothes brand (and
famous composer) is on every street, just like Starbucks.

We are currently in the midst of the most amazing shopaholic’s
dream.  Twice a year, in July and in January all clothing stores
have a massive sale at the same time.  The sale starts today and
lasts for 3 weeks.  It is scary how unified the shopping world is
here.  They all close from 2-4 and they all start their sale on
the same day.  There are often no ‘sale’ sections in a
store–everything is full price, but on this day, everything is marked
down 20-50% (well almost.  I bought two bras today that were full
priced because they weren’t on display.  Underwear here costs
about the same as it does in the States).  In addition, the
quality and intricacies of a piece of clothing is unbelievable. 
Today I bought a skirt for 15e (about $22)  that I am certain
would sell for at least $60 at home, probably closer to $100. 
It’s quite cute, but I won’t bore people with the details. 
Generally, though, the quality to price ratio varies a lot, and it is
not hard to find great deals on beautiful clothes.  Unfortunately,
this caused me to drop 100e in 2 hours.  I guess it’s just pasta
and tomatoes for the rest of the month…

All native Italian food is much cheaper here than at home.  For
example, 1 lb of vine ripe tomatoes cost about 50cents here vs. $2-4 in
the states.  They don’t even sell non-vine ripe tomatoes (except
for these very un ripe ones that serve some different purpose, as they
are carefully separated from the red tomatoes and they cost
more).  The cheapest pasta is 20cents a pound, but I went to a
specialty store and they sold me a pound of wheat pasta for 3e.  I
may have gotten ripped off, but I’m not entirely sure.  I would
rather have the penis shaped pasta, sold next to the Vatican, that is
the same price.

Slightly more exotic foods, like apples, raspberries, Kellogs corn
flakes are the same price.  American-brand foods, like Pringles
($2 for a can) and Mentos ($1.50 for a stick) cost a lot more, with the
exception of cereal brands.

There is a farmer’s market every day except Sunday from 7am-2pm. 
This is the place to go for fresher produce, more varieties of meat,
seafood and cheese and better prices.  We live in a fabulous
location (more on that later) where we are 1 block away from the open

I haven’t had a chance to go out to a nice restaurant, as my peers are
more interested in drinking, but I’ll eventually find someone to go
with me.  In any case, the food looks really good and many people
lounge outside for their 2+hour long dinners.  I went to the
supposedly best gelataria in Rome, and the gelato was very creamy and
smooth.  It tasted good, but I’m not sure what makes good
gelato.  Gelataria Naia in Berkeley is pretty awesome.

Location and accommodations
We live in a prime location, Residence Candia, in the central part of
Rome.  Piazza San Pietro (the Vatican) is an 8 minute walk
away.  On the way to school, a beautiful 45 min walk or 30 min bus
ride, I pass by the Vatican, St. Angelo’s castle, Piazza Navona, and
the Pantheon.  Depending on the route, which I try to vary daily,
there are a plethora of churches, fountains and statues to stop and
admire.  I have a lot of photos, but I want to figure out what
they are of before I post them.

I have a single room with a small double bed.  The room fits the
bed and has 2 feet of walking space on one side.  There is a
bureau, a lingerie drawer and a night stand squeezed somewhere in
there.  The place is tiny, which actually motivates to keep the
room spotless.  We have a nice common space that includes a
kitchen/everything table and a couch.  Everything is designed
space-efficiently.  The bottom shelf of the cabinets over the sink
is a dish drying rack.  We wash our dishes, put them on the shelf
and the water just drips down onto the sink.  I think it is my
favorite feature.  There is daily cleaning service, but they don’t
wash our dishes.  Yesterday I washed some of my clothes in the
sink, because doing laundry is very expensive here; 3.50e to wash and
3.50 to dry a small load.  It was pretty weird for me since I
don’t even wash ‘hand wash only’ clothes.  My two main desires for
my apartment in Milan are now a telephone line and a washing
machine.  Dryers are very rare, as electricity is expensive.

Being a tourist
I haven’t had a chance to go into to any museums or churches yet, but
last night my new friend, Adam, and I were going to go to a jazz club
near our residence.  Turns out that on a Friday night at 11pm it
was closed; not just wrapping up closed, but dead quiet closed. 
Instead we just started walking and bumped into a bar on the corner of
a street in the middle of the sidewalk.  It looked like one of
those huts you see in Hawaii, except that it was a full bar.  We
had another drink there and moved on. (Oh, yes.  I forgot to
mention that I took a shot of absinthe before leaving the house. 
Some boys purchased 2 bottles, and I prepared a glass with the sugar
and ice water thing, but it didn’t work well since we didn’t have the
right spoon.  That glass tasted ok, though, but it was too
complicated a process, so they just started putting a spoon full of
sugar at the bottom of a shot glass and pouring absinthe over it. 
They got very, very drunk on it and the one shot that I tried was quite
nasty.  Awful, like it shouldn’t be consumed that way, since it’s
not.  I will also note that they paid 25e per bottle, just to get
excessively smashed.) 

We wandered around for a while (Adam pretended to know where he was
going) and he showed me this awesome place overlooking piazza
Popolo.  The view of the city was beautiful.  After that, we
went to the Spanish steps, which is another gorgeous place where punk
rockers and musicians and lovers hang out.  It turns out that we
were right next to the Trevi fountain, but since I have no sense of
direction, I didn’t suggest we go there.  This is the famous
fountain where you throw two coins over your shoulder into the fountain
and you will return to Rome someday.  We then wandered in some
other direction and we suddenly at the Monumento a Vittorio
Emanuele.  It is absolutely stunning.  I can’t emphasize
enough the beauty of this place.  Of course, I thought we were
just going to listen to jazz, so I left my camera at home.  Next
was the Foro Romano, where the Senate took place and Ceasar was
supposedly murdered.  Finally, we stood in humbled awe of the
Coliseum and decided to start wandering home.

We found a sign pointing us towards Piazza San Pietro and after walking
in that direction for a bit, we were at school.  I somehow thought
that everything was very far away from each other, so this was a bit of
a surprise.  We didn’t stop to take a look at the Pantheon on our
way back, but it is a block away from where we take classes. 
Crossing the Tevere river for the second time that night, we admired
the serene view of the Castel Sant’Angelo.  We moved on, and after
spending some time at the Piazza San Pietro, we finally ended up at
home.  We had been wandering the streets of Rome for about 4
hours.  The city is surprisingly small and we saw most of the
major attractions.  Of course, I intend to go back to all of the
places and many others.  As impressive as it is to stand in front
of so many famous places, I want to admire all the artwork inside these